When Jaime Gray was growing up in Bakersfield, she used to practice for rodeo competition by throwing 200 or 300 loops a day. She is still making throws, but instead of roping calves, she's nabbing runners who try to steal bases against the Cal State Northridge softball team. A senior, Gray is the starting catcher for the three-time defending NCAA Divison II champion Lady Matadors.
Gray began competing as a calf roper and barrel racer when she was 9. Her rodeo days came to an end as a sophomore in high school when Gray decided to steer her athletic career in a different direction.
"The only way I was going to be able to go to college was to get a softball scholarship," Gray said. "It was rodeo or softball. I had to make a choice."
But as a 9-year-old, Gray had no options on the day she discovered her brother and sister chewing tobacco.
"I was going to tell on both of them, but my sister made me try it, too, so she wouldn't get in trouble," said Gray, who still pops in a dip when she works behind the plate. "My sister ended up quitting. I didn't."
Gray said her tobacco-chewing habit is tolerated by CSUN Coach Gary Torgeson.
"Coach Torgeson was a little surprised when he found out I was chewing tobacco," Gray said. "But he told me it was OK with him as long as I didn't spit into the wind."